Friday’s ballot vote could signal Thammanat decision, change future of Thai politics

Parliament will vote on Friday whether or not to change the electoral system from a one ballot system back to a two-ballot system.

If it does vote to revert back to a two-ballot system, as used before the coup, it could have several far-reaching consequences for the Thai political situation.

As it stands, the current one-ballot system favours smaller parties at the expense of larger ones. The current system was put in place to stop parties like the Thaksin Shinawatra-backed Pheu Thai party from dominating the political scene. As a result, smaller parties are empowered by the one-ballot system which weighs party-list candidates more heavily than constituency votes.

It has unintentionally, as far as the military drafters of the constitution are concerned, given rise to parties like the anti-establishment Future/Move Forward Party and given them dozens of seats.

During the constitutional amendment debates, a unexpected alliance over the balloting system formed between the opposition Pheu Thai and the ruling Palang Pracharath Party. Both parties have invested money and time into constituent seats and have far-reaching tentacles in local politics throughout the country – something the upstart Move Forward Party does not. If parliament were to revert to the old two-ballot system, it would benefit these two parties the most.

Changing situation

The reason that Palang Pracharath have been so bullish about reverting to a two-ballot system is because of the ground game, investment into local politics, that has been built by party secretary Thammanat Prompao.

Thammanat’s influence has seen the PPRP win the majority of run-off and local elections that have taken place since the 2019 election and had party-insiders confident that they could mount a significant challenge to the Pheu Thai Party in the next polls.

However, the situation inside the party has changed in the last two weeks with Thammanat involved in a failed putsch against Prime Minister Prayut Chan-ocha.

The failed coup has resulted in the former drug dealer turned politician losing his position as the Deputy Agricultural Minister, and has raised questions over his place in the Palang Pracharath Party.

If Thammanat were to leave, as he has hinted at his press conference on Thursday, or were he forced out by Prayut, he would likely take up to 20 MPs with him and leave the PPRP without an influential figure in local contests.

Therefore Wednesday’s constitutional vote to change the balloting system will be seen by political analysts and the opposition parties as a key barometer whether or not Thammanat will stay.

Should the vote sail through and the balloting system revert to a two-ballot system, Thammanat will likely stay on in the party – setting up a future clash with Prayut Chan-ocha.

If the vote fails, and the one-ballot system remains in place, then Thammanat will likely leave the party and Prayut will become the main political figure inside the PPRP.

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